Supervisors urged to fund transitional housing

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – Requests for funding outpatient addiction treatment and transitional housing services have been well-received by Humboldt County supervisors.

At their May 22 meeting, supervisors considered a letter from the county’s Behavioral Health Board that requests support for continuum of care – the step-by-step series of services leading to addiction recovery – and funding for the final phases of it, outpatient treatment and transitional housing.

Marguerite Story-Baker, a McKinleyville resident and member of the Behavioral Health Board, described addiction recovery as “a very painful and grinding process” that “can’t be accomplished in a short term or piecemeal way.”

“It’s been proven statistically that longer treatment periods followed by sober living environments equate to more clients having permanent recovery,” she continued. “Most clients in the public drug and alcohol system cannot go home immediately because their living situations — or lack thereof — contain so many triggers to drink or use again.”

State-level changes in Medi-Cal funding will expand opportunities for outpatient/transitional living services and the Behavioral Health Board’s letter encourages the county to pursue them and to provide funding from its own budget.

Behavioral Health Boardmember Art Wilson co-manages the McKinleyville-based AJ’s Transitional Living facility, which uses the 12-step program approach to alcoholism recovery and assists clients with transportation and gaining employment.

He told supervisors that it costs AJ’s about $500 a month per client and general relief provides about $300 of it. “So there’s a huge gap there,” he said. “We’re asking the Board of Supervisors to consider any funding source.”

Many of AJ’s clients aren’t referred from residential treatment facilities and “come straight off the streets,” Wilson said. “We get the people that everyone else throws away — but these people succeed.”

“There’s a big difference between AJ’s in McKinleyville and a lot of (transitional living) houses in Eureka,” said one resident of AJ’s. “They give you enough time and it’s a loving environment — other places don’t offer that.”

Another man said living at AJ’s has prevented a return to alcoholism. “Without a place that’s safe, clean — and morally clean — I would be drinking again, I know it,” he continued.

A woman who’s been living at AJ’s for two-and-a-half years – almost ever since it opened – said her life has steadily improved and now she’s on a waiting list for permanent housing.

“They have given rides to me, I go to AA meetings every day and I have learned how to live clean and sober and mentally stable,” she continued.

Supervisors acknowledged the importance of transitional living assistance. “Certainly the message was received,” said Supervisor Mike Wilson. “I’m sure the board will consume that information as we deliberate on our budget.”

“We do have an issue with a funding gap for transitional living (houses) and some of them are close to going out of business,” said Board Chair Ryan Sundberg. “That’s 10 to 20 people who have a safe, clean place to heal themselves that are going to be back on the streets and probably breaking into cars — all of the issues that we deal with on a day to day basis.”

He added that “figuring out how to support them is going to be very important in our upcoming budget and I’m looking forward to that conversation.”




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